How to Build Hidden Compartments in Bookcases


A hidden compartment is a frequent feature on antique furniture from desks to armoires. Bookcases also make suitable pieces for secret compartments, because the back surface is rarely seen behind the books, and the compartment is accessible for those who know it is there. Whether you want to hide away jewelry, money or personal documents, you can build a hidden compartment for your bookcase even with little woodworking experience.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Plywood, ½-inch thick
  • Hand or table saw
  • Wood glue
  • Select the section of your bookcase where you want to place the hidden compartment. Measure the height and width of this area. Cut a piece of plywood to this size to be your front panel of the compartment.

  • Measure and cut a plywood piece to the same height, but subtract 2 inches from the width for your back panel. Measure and cut two pieces 1.5 inches wide by the height of the compartment area for your sides.

  • Measure and cut a bottom for your compartment 1.5 inches wide by a length equal to the back piece, minus 1 inch.

  • Lay the back piece on a flat surface. Run a bead of wood glue along the bottom-width edge of the face of the board, as well as up the sides. Position the side pieces on their long edges over the back board from corner to corner. Place the bottom piece between the sides on its long edge over the glue at the bottom. Allow the glue to dry for two hours.

  • Run a bead of glue over the upper surfaces of each side piece and over the upward-facing edge of the bottom piece. Lay the front panel over the side and bottom pieces allowing the front to overhang by 1 inch on each side. This will form a box with an open top. Allow the glue to dry for two hours.

  • Place the compartment into the bookcase, with the back piece facing the back of the bookcase and the open top facing up. Push the compartment all the way to the back. To retrieve the hidden compartment, press either side edge of the front toward the back.

Tips & Warnings

  • Stain or paint the hidden compartment to match the back surface of your bookcase for a more secretive look.

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